The Evening Blues - 10-15-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singers Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Enjoy!
The Impressions - It's All Right
"The mark of a mature, psychologically healthy mind is indeed the ability to live with uncertainty and ambiguity, but only as much as there really is. Uncertainty is no virtue when the facts are clear, and ambiguity is mere obfuscation when more precise terms are applicable."
-- Julian Baggini
News and Opinion
Ryan Grim catches Amy Coney Barrett trying to pull a fast one:
A single, dominant theme has emerged from Amy Coney Barrett’s testimony during her confirmation hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court this week: She is, she has repeatedly said, a “textualist” who believes that the plain meaning of a statute reigns supreme, that the job of writing those laws belongs strictly to Congress, and not to the courts. She’s lying — and the lie was exposed nakedly in her assessment of the Supreme Court’s 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked Barrett about that case, Shelby v. Holder. In particular, she asked Barrett if she agreed with her mentor Justice Antonin Scalia’s conclusion that the act was a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Barrett declined to answer, instead repeatedly framing the case as one in which the Supreme Court decided whether the law’s key provision, which required states with a history of discrimination to clear their voting law changes with the Department of Justice, was “outdated and needed to be updated from the 1960s.” (The court, in a 5-4 decision, freed the states of that federal oversight.)
Feinstein did not press Barrett on the wild discrepancy between her claim that the court could decide to “update” a statute because a number of decades had passed and her belief in the firmness of originalism and textualism, legal philosophies she says define her approach. Describing herself as an “originalist,” Barrett said this week, “In English, that means that I interpret the Constitution as a law and that I interpret its text as text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time, and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”
She said the same of textualism. “Similarly to what I just said about originalism, for textualism, the judge approaches the text as it was written, with the meaning it had at the time and doesn’t infuse her own meaning into it,” she said on Tuesday. Her response to Feinstein, then, is precisely the type of thing that the legal movement Barrett comes out of crusades against. It’s not up to judges, originalists and textualists say, to put a finger in the wind and rewrite laws. That’s the job of lawmakers.
That discrepancy alone makes a stark contradiction between her stated approach and her actual approach to the law. But it’s worse than that. To make the Voting Rights Act look in need of a judicial update, Barrett suggested that Congress hadn’t dealt with it since the 1960s. That was a lie. In 2006, a Republican Congress passed a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act after a yearslong series of negotiations between the parties. Named the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, it ultimately passed the House 390-33 and cleared the Senate 98-0. It was then signed into law by President George W. Bush, who pledged his commitment to enforce its updated provisions. That’s how laws ought to be made, according to Barrett, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. But to acknowledge all of that legislative activity undertaken by democratically elected lawmakers would undermine her claim that the law hadn’t been “updated from the 1960s.”
Kamala Harris delivered a blistering rebuke of Republican efforts to tear down healthcare and abortion access as she grilled Amy Coney Barrett, prompting the supreme court nominee to make the unbelievable claim that she was not aware of Donald Trump’s campaign promise to appoint justices who would dismantle Obamacare.
Speaking via teleconference during Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, the Democratic senator and vice-presidential nominee began with a campaign speech about the importance of accessible healthcare amid the coronavirus – highlighting the number of Americans who would lose insurance if the 2010 Affordable Care Act were repealed in five states where Republican senators are struggling to win re-election.
She then addressed Barrett: “Prior to your nomination, were you aware of President Trump’s statement committing to nominate judges who will strike down the Affordable Care Act? And I’d appreciate a yes or no answer.” Barrett maintained that before she was nominated to the supreme court, she was unaware of his public statements. “I don’t recall hearing about or seeing such statements,” Barrett said.
Harris asked how many months after Barrett wrote an article criticizing John Roberts’ decision upholding the Affordable Care Act she received her nomination for her appeals court position. ... “I would hope the committee would trust my integrity,” Barrett said, noting, as she has done throughout the hearings, that she has not made any commitments to rule a certain way on the healthcare law.
The assertion, and Barrett’s implication that she had somehow tuned out the president’s loud, public criterion for judges he’d appoint, is difficult to believe.
Following the announcement Tuesday that the New York Times "At War" section—which has explored the "experiences and costs of war" for the past two and a half years—is ending this week, peace advocates were quick to note that the United States' actual "forever war" outlasting a forum dedicated to covering it should be a sobering reminder of the nation's destructive and bloody foreign policy nearly two decades after the invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq.
The news came just one week after Stars and Stripes provided an account of U.S. military veterans who fought in Afghanistan watching their children deploy to the same ongoing war.
"The forever war outlasting the NYT section on the forever war is a very forever war thing to happen," tweeted Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA.
Herd Immunity: Is It a More Compassionate Approach or Will It Lead to Death or Illness for Millions?
'Millions of Real People's Lives Are at Stake': As Pelosi Battles White House, Ro Khanna Says Democrats Can Win Morally—and Politically
Pointing to the unprecedented food bank lines, housing insecurity, and economic suffering in his district and across the country as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States, Rep. Ro Khanna told Common Dreams Wednesday that it is both morally right and in the political interest of the Democratic Party to fight for a deal with the White House on coronavirus relief ahead of the pivotal November election.
In a phone interview, the California Democrat relayed the story of a constituent earning around $50,000 per year who has been forced to dip into his 401(k) savings to pay his mortgage after his wife—like tens of millions of other Americans in recent months—lost her job.
"He was telling me that if he doesn't get some help in the next month or two, he's going to have to lose his house and leave the Bay Area," said Khanna. "That story is so common in my district and it's common around the country."
Thus far the only progressive member of Congress to publicly urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to run with the White House's $1.8 trillion relief offer, Khanna said it's not acceptable to deny much-needed aid to millions of people on the basis of speculative political calculations—such as whether President Donald Trump could derive electoral benefit from the approval of another round of stimulus checks that he can put his name on.
Just because Trump may try to spin a relief deal to his advantage, Khanna said, "doesn't mean we deny people the money they need or the relief they need."
"Millions of real people's lives are at stake," the congressman said.
Despite the dire economic and public health circumstances facing the nation just three weeks out from the presidential election, recent stimulus talks have shown little sign of movement toward an agreement as Pelosi—whose chamber has passed two sweeping relief bills that Senate Republicans immediately rejected out of hand—continues to criticize the White House's $1.8 trillion offer as woefully inadequate. ...
Khanna has previously made clear—and made clear once more to Common Dreams on Wednesday—he's not recommending that Democrats dispense with legitimate criticisms of the White House offer and blindly accept what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has placed in front of them.
Rather, Khanna stressed the substantial upsides of the $1.8 trillion proposal and argued that the points of contention—such as disagreements over funding for coronavirus testing—can be worked out. As it stands, the $1.8 trillion plan would provide a $400-per-week boost to unemployment insurance, $300 billion in aid to state and local governments, and another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to most U.S. adults—plus an additional $1,000 per child.
Khanna told Common Dreams that he has heard the two sides have "negotiated language" on corporate liability provisions but said he has not seen that language. The White House and GOP push for sweeping liability protections for corporations has been criticized by Democratic lawmakers, consumer advocacy groups,and small business owners as an attempt to immunize large companies that expose their workers and customers to Covid-19.
"At the end of the day, I have a lot of faith in the American people and I believe that if you do the right thing the politics sort themselves out," Khanna said, adding that there is "no doubt in my mind" additional stimulus makes sense from an economic standpoint.
Emphasizing that millions of people across the U.S. are "struggling to keep their house, struggling to provide nutritious food for their kids, struggling to see the restaurant that they spent 20 years building stay open," Khanna said, "We have to provide them with relief."
Issued 'When No One Was Looking,' Critics Warn New Trump Guidance on Eviction Moratorium a Blow to Renter Protections and Public Health
In a largely overlooked move late last week, the Trump administration—following a deluge of legal challenges from the real estate industry—weighed in on the pandemic-driven federal eviction moratorium for nonpayment of rent that expires at year's end, issuing new guidance that housing policy analysts said rolls back tenant protections, stacks the deck in favor of landlords, and exacerbates the spread of Covid-19.
Because the new guidance (pdf) issued by the White House on October 9 allows landlords to challenge tenant declarations of eligibility for protection and to immediately begin proceedings for evictions scheduled in 2021, progressive critics say that it "undermines the intent of the order," which was to safeguard public health by making it easier for "struggling renters to remain stably housed" amid the coronavirus crisis.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered in early September a temporary halt in evictions for the remainder of 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19, housing and health justice advocates applauded the immediate public health benefits of the intervention but criticized its absence of rental assistance funding for cash-strapped households.
As Common Dreams reported at the time, experts warned the absence of such funds would only postpone a tsunami of displacement, not prevent it.
The National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) estimated that as of September 14, approximately 10 to 14 million renter households—home to 23 to 34 million people—were behind on rent by a total of $12 to $17 billion, while a more recent NCSHA report (pdf) anticipates that there will be a nationwide rent shortfall of $25 to $34 billion by the time the federal eviction moratorium comes to an end.
Soon after the CDC issued its temporary eviction ban last month, legal challenges poured in from the real estate industry arguing that the moratorium should be declared unconstitutional, and reporting from VICE showed that some property owners were still "trying to kick tenants out" despite the order.
Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest University, told VICE that the mishmash of state and local laws related to tenants' requirements to appear in court and present evidence as well as inconsistent interpretations of the CDC moratorium, "especially those that limit the scope... or undermine its authority, will result in widespread confusion" regarding "rights and obligations."
Several housing and public health scholar-activists said that the new guidance issued "late Friday night when no one was looking" by the Trump administration—which was pushed for by the Koch-backed New Civil Liberties Alliance, according to Tuesday reporting from the Center for Media and Democracy—tilts the scales even further in favor of landlords.
In its answers to frequently asked questions, the White House reiterated that the CDC measure does not require landlords to inform tenants of their rights, a situation that critics say has led many renters to remain unaware of the necessity to submit eligibility documentation.
Furthermore, as the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) explained Tuesday in a memo, the new guidance enables landlords to challenge tenant declarations of eligibility, which "shifts the burden of gathering paperwork and evidence to renters struggling to remain stably housed during the pandemic."
Moreover, the new guidance also permits landlords to begin eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent at any time so long as the eviction itself does not occur before the CDC moratorium expires. The NLIHC explained that this "provides landlords new opportunity to intimidate tenants who are behind on their rent and pressure tenants to vacate their homes sooner."
NLIHC president and CEO Diane Yentel tweeted in response to the guidance: "Why would a landlord want to start eviction proceedings in October for an eviction that can't happen until January? The answer: to pressure, scare, and intimidate renters into leaving sooner."
"Evictions—even just a single eviction filing—create a long-term mark on a renter's record that can make it much harder for them to rent in the future," Yentel said. "Some renters avoid that mark by leaving before the formal eviction proceedings happen."
The neo-Nazi leaders of Golden Dawn have each been sentenced to 13 years in prison by a court in Athens, at the end of a historic hearing. The neo-fascist group was officially laid to rest as its disgraced former MPs were shown little mercy by a three-member panel of judges. Last week the court ruled that Golden Dawn lawmakers had operated a criminal organisation under the guise of being a democratically elected party.
A public prosecutor proposed lengthy prison terms for 57 defendants convicted of murder, assault, weapons possession and either running or participating in the criminal outfit, and on Wednesday a total of more than 500 years behind bars was handed down by the tribunal. The court, which almost unanimously dismissed pleas for leniency, went into recess following the announcement to deliberate on whether the sentences would be suspended pending appeal.
Golden Dawn’s founder, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, 62, is facing 13 and a half years in prison, the price for not only masterminding the organisation’s criminal activities as its self-appointed führer but turning what was once a fringe Nazi movement into a political force whose modus operandi was the eradication of enemies by hit squads. His extremist views were formed during Greece’s 1967-74 Colonels’ regime. He was handed an extra six-month jail term for illegal arms possession. ...
From its inception in the early 1980s through to 2012 when, riding a wave of economic anger and despair, it began its seven-year stint in parliament, the far right group targeted leftists, anti-nationalist “traitors”, communist trade unionists, members of the LGBTQ community, migrants and refugees.
Armed militia groups are forging alliances in the final stages of the US presidential election with conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers who claim the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax, intensifying concerns that trouble could be brewing ahead of election day. Leading advocates of anti-government and anti-science propaganda came together at the weekend, joined by the founder of one of the largest militia groups. The rare connection occurred at the Red Pill Expo, a conference convened on Jekyll Island, Georgia – a symbolic location as it is the birthplace of the US Federal Reserve, a popular bogey figure for conspiracy theorists. ...
The summit, staged indoors in front of a packed and maskless audience of about 350, was headlined by Stewart Rhodes, president of the Oath Keepers. ... Rhodes said the turbulence around “radical left” protests had brought “a flood of special warfare operatives into the Oath Keepers”. He cited former navy Seals and special force personnel from Fort Bragg, the US army garrison in North Carolina.
A number of groups monitoring far rightwing paramilitary activity have warned in recent weeks that militia groups and individuals online are increasingly focusing their attentions on the presidential election. The chatter has been fueled by Trump’s provocative remarks casting doubt on the integrity of the voting process and calling on his supporters to turn up at polling places on election day. ...
At the Red Pill gathering, the Oath Keeper president set his sights openly on election day. He said that on 3 November “we will have our men deployed outside the polling stations to make sure you are protected, especially in swing states”. Rhodes’ appearance marked an unusually overt fusion of interests between armed far-right groups and anti-government and anti-pharmaceutical conspiracy theorists. Several of his fellow keynote speakers denounced the coronavirus pandemic as a fraud cooked up by global elites as a ploy to subjugate the American people.
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday called on Defense Secretary Mark Esper to definitively declare that U.S. troops won't be used to influence the 2020 election after the Pentagon chief was evasive in written answers to questions about the role of the military in a peaceful transition of power.
Politico reports Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) raised alarm Tuesday after Esper would not explicitly rule out deploying troops to polling places on Election Day.
Esper would only say that "the U.S. military has acted, and will continue to act, in accordance with the Constitution and the law."
The representatives contrasted Esper's stance to that of Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who on Sunday emphatically ruled out such action.
"We have established a very long 240-year tradition of an apolitical military that does not get involved in domestic politics," Milley told NPR. "We, the U.S. military, we are sworn to obey the lawful orders of our civilian leadership, and we want to ensure that there is always civilian leadership, civilian control of the military, and we will obey the lawful orders of civilian control of the military."
"This isn't the first time that someone has suggested that there might be a contested election," Milley continued. "And if there is, it'll be handled appropriately by the courts and by the U.S. Congress."
"There's no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero. There is no role there," Milley emphatically declared.
Slotkin, a former Pentagon official and CIA officer, said that Milley "answered in terms of what he would do as a cabinet-level official, but took a serious nod towards what he knows is the apolitical reputation of the military and demonstrated how important that was to him."
"We heard no such thing from Secretary Esper," she said.
Sherrill said that Esper "did not give us the sense that we could believe that he understood that this was such a critical time." The retired naval officer called Esper's answers "boilerplate." She added:
We have not received a direct commitment from Secretary Esper that he will refuse commands from an illegitimate president. Given the fact that the president has used our military for partisan purposes in the past and that the president has suggested he will not concede if he loses, it is incumbent upon the secretary of defense to fulfill his constitutional duties and ensure the apolitical role of the military.
The lawmakers' concern comes as the nation braces for a potential scenario in which the outcome of the presidential election is contested by President Donald Trump, who has incessantly attacked the legitimacy of the electoral process, especially mail-in voting.
Four officers fired more than 30 rounds at an anti-fascist activist who had been on the run after being named in the killing of a man during a pro-Trump rally in Portland, Oregon, an official said on Tuesday. Law enforcement officials killed Michael Reinoehl on 3 September after they cornered him in his car outside an apartment complex in Lacey, Washington. Reinoehl was the suspect in the fatal shooting of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was killed at a pro-Trump car caravan in Portland on 29 August. ...
The New York Times interviewed 22 people who were near the scene, and reported that all but one said they did not hear officers identify themselves or give commands before they started shooting. The paper also reported on the official statements of the officers to investigators, which have not yet been released to the public, noting that one officer alleged he thought he saw Reinoehl raise a gun inside the vehicle, but that two others said they did not.
The Thurston county sheriff’s office is investigating the killing. Lt Ray Brady said on Tuesday that Reinoehl had a loaded .380-caliber handgun in his front pocket, and that police found him with his hand on or near the gun after he was killed. Authorities are still investigating whether this gun was used in the Portland shooting days earlier. The officers who fired at Reinoehl were part of a multi-agency federal taskforce and had pulled up in two unmarked cars, Brady said. The officers were not wearing body cameras, and there is no surveillance footage of the killing. ...
A witness, Garrett Louis, told the New York Times he watched the shooting begin while trying to get his eight-year-old son out of the way. He said the officers began shooting so suddenly that he initially assumed they were criminals gunning down an enemy, not police. “There was no, ‘Get out of the car!’ There was no, ‘Stop!’ … They just got out of the car and started shooting.”
Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, found out from the news that the woman he had hoped to marry and who had just been shot by police in a botched raid on her apartment had died. He also revealed in an interview broadcast on Wednesday morning that law enforcement officers who searched the apartment after she had been shot in a hail of bullets did not appear to try to save Taylor as she lay on the floor.
Swat team video shows officers calling the area “a crime scene”.
“Let’s go ahead and move out. All right, she’s done,” an officer can be heard saying.
Walker spoke of how he had called 911 as Taylor had collapsed bleeding, then when he went to the door to get help, he was taken away by the police and only learned later that Taylor had died. “They’re still, like, casing the apartment with her laying right there on the ground,” Walker said. “Disrespectful.”
Trump has emerged from his battle with coronavirus, and it's made him… horny as hell? pic.twitter.com/Xik000mtJU
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 14, 2020
As voters turn out in record numbers to choose between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Americans continued to endure hours-long waits to vote early. A record of 14 million Americans have already voted in the general election, according to an analysis of voting information from the US Elections Project. In key swing states such as Florida more than 2 million voters have already cast their ballots.
“The numbers are pretty staggering for us and the return rates and the polling look good,” Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida, told Politico. “But there’s just a lot we don’t know.”
In Georgia, residents waited for as long as eight hours to exercise their democratic right. Many took to social media to share their experiences with early voting, noting lines of voters spanning several city blocks or school parking lots. ...
Long lines are not the only obstacles voters have faced. Technical glitches have also delayed the process. Voters have also faced barriers to accessing their ballots, including computer problems in some precincts as well as legal challenges in places throughout the US south. ...
Early returns show a commanding lead for Democrats, even as most polls show their supporters are more likely to favor early or mail-in voting compared with Republicans. Conservatives, who are also more likely to ignore official federal coronavirus guidance, are more committed to vote in the traditional way, in person on election day.
Even the pitch black, nearly freezing waters at the bottom of the ocean – far from where humans live and burn fossil fuels – are slowly warming, according to a study of a decade of hourly measurements. The temperatures are rising quicker than previously thought, as recorded at stations at four different depths in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Uruguay. Between 2009 and 2019, the water there at points between 1,360m (4,462ft) and 4,757m deep warmed by 0.02-0.04C.
The change may seem minuscule, but it is significant.
“If you think about how large the deep ocean is, it’s an enormous amount of heat,” said Christopher Meinen, an oceanographer at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and lead author of the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
While the general consensus has been that the deep ocean is warming, scientists have had to rely on a snapshot of data collected every 10 years from research vessels. Climate models have found that high levels of climate pollution by the end of the century will penetrate deeper in the ocean, threatening deep sea creatures.
Roughly 90% of the heat absorbed by the Earth goes into the oceans. Although they warm slowly, the heat makes water molecules expand, contributing to sea-level rise. It also intensifies hurricanes. By comparison, the global land and ocean surface temperatures are heating up much faster. In 2009, they were 0.56C higher than the long-term average. By 2019, they were 0.95C higher, according to NOAA data.
Bolstering Public Health Fears, Harvard Study Finds Elevated Airborne Radiation Levels Downwind of US Fracking Sites
A study released Tuesday by a team of scientists from Harvard University found that airborne radiation levels downwind of U.S. fracking sites are significantly elevated compared to background levels, providing further evidence that the drilling practice poses a threat to public health as well as the climate.
Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study detected the largest increases in airborne radiation levels near drilling locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, states with high concentrations of fracking sites.
"Our results suggest that an increase in [particle radioactivity] due to the extensive [fracking development] may cause adverse health outcomes in nearby communities," warned the study, which found that locations within 12 miles downwind of 100 fracking sites have around 7% higher radiation levels compared to background levels.
The impact of fracking on airborne particle radioactivity "decreases gradually along with an increasing downwind distance" from oil and gas wells, the researchers noted.
Petros Koutrakis, the lead author of the study, told The Guardian that "if you asked me to go and live downwind [of fracking sites], I would not go. People should not go crazy, but I think it's a significant risk that needs to be addressed."
The new study comes as fracking continues to figure prominently in the 2020 presidential race, with President Donald Trump openly celebrating the destructive practice and Democratic nominee Joe Biden vowing not to completely ban it if elected—a stance that has drawn the ire of environmental activists and progressive lawmakers.
Less than a month ago, a major news organization published scientific data showing that climate change will render much of the United States uninhabitable in our lifetimes, and this wasn't even a one-day story in American politics and political media. https://t.co/uqESYLXowZ
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) October 14, 2020
As the climate crisis fuels devastating wildfires across the western United States and melts Arctic sea ice at an alarming rate, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that Earth just experienced the hottest September on record and that 2020 is on pace to be one of the three hottest years on the books.
According to NOAA, "the 10 warmest Septembers have all occurred since 2005, with the seven warmest Septembers occurring in the last seven years."
"We've broken the climate system," tweeted meteorologist Eric Holthaus. "We are in a climate emergency."
NOAA and NASA data have just confirmed that September 2020 was the warmest September ever measured globally.
2020 now has a 64% chance of being the warmest year in history.
We've broken the climate system. We are in a climate emergency. pic.twitter.com/mEcNuuxZsV
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) October 14, 2020
NOAA found that 2020 has a 65% chance of beating out 2016 as the warmest year on record, a 35% chance of being the second-warmest ever, and will almost certainly rank in the top three.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Impressions - We're a Winner
The Impressions - Keep On Pushing
Impressions - I Need You
Impressions - Fool For You
Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions - Gypsy Woman
Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions - I've Been Trying
Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions - You've Been Cheatin
Curtis Mayfield - Superfly
Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions - People Get Ready